Over the years I’ve looked at women who are staying at home and think, “Wow. How can they afford to stay at home?”
I’d look at my bills and think to myself that there was no way I could quit working and let Jimmi support our family, especially if we wanted to buy a house at some point. When we decided to adopt I got a different job that forced me to put Josiah in preschool. After all, adoption is expensive (even though in Arkansas if you adopt through DHS you only pay for the home inspection). When I started working at a salary job and got pregnant, I thought, “It’s a good thing I’m working, after all we’d have a hard time affording this baby.”
About halfway through my pregnancy when I looked at our finances and how they would change I all the sudden realized that I couldn’t afford to keep working. Between daycare for two and diapers and pumping all the time or succumbing to supplementing with formula and the extremely high cost of the insurance at work that I’d have to eventually sign up for and the weekly take out costs because I was too tired to cook there was no way we’d ever survive if I stayed at work. Basically my entire check would have gone to daycare and insurance. How sad? Even just paying for daycare for Samuel and preschool for Josiah it would have taken up about 80% of my salary. I’d be working to pay for daycare.
On the one hand someone could say that we should have been more careful and not gotten pregnant. After all, if I can’t afford to pay for daycare then I shouldn’t have had another baby. Honestly, at $400+ a month PER KID, who can afford daycare? I knew I was going to have to re-evaluate the whole staying at home thing. I wanted to stay at home and I wanted to homeschool, but I was always under the impression that I couldn’t afford to quit my job. The reality was, I had to make choices regarding certain areas of our finances if I wanted to stay at home. It wasn’t about the fact that we couldn’t survive without my job, it was a question of what we’d be willing to do for me to stay at home.
Before I even started considering staying at home, I’d already made some practical choices and had learned some valuable skills that would help me save money. First off, we shut off the Direct TV. Don’t get me started on how much I despise Direct TV. Since getting it I’d noticed that our bill started at about $50 a month and closer to the end of the two years I was paying about $125 a month — FOR TV! We were paying for over 250 channels and we only watched about 10 of them. Paying for the basic 50 channels would still be around $70 a month and honestly if we only had those channels, half of the channels we watch wouldn’t be there. We cut it out completely and started paying for Netflix. $8.99 a month to watch tons of movies and tv shows is definitely worth it. We’ve had it a year and I’m still not lacking on shows to watch. We recently started paying for Hulu Plus (another $8.99 a month) so we can watch a few of the shows we like. Still, $20 a month is better than $70. Over the summer we suspend Hulu because there are no new shows streaming.
To shave money off of our grocery bill I stopped buying junk food and processed foods and started buying foods that required a little more prep and effort, but were better for us and cheaper to buy. At this point I can buy a months worth of groceries (including breakfast foods and lunch foods) for a family of 4 for under $400 a month. On a good month I can spend less than $350.
We made the decision to use cloth diapers and wipes. We still use disposable for church a few other situations, but that means we spend about $20 a month on diapers instead of $20 a week. With me staying at home I can exclusively breastfeed which means I’m saving a TON of money by not buying formula at all.
What about everything else though? Clothes, school supplies, other needs, etc…
I am a member of 20 different local “yard sale” groups on Facebook. If we are a little short on bills one week or I have something that I want to buy, I walk around my house and look at all the things that we have that we don’t need or don’t use and I post it online and sell it. Since June I’ve probably made around $1,000 just selling stuff around the house. Some things have been bigger, like the two recliners I sold because I want to buy a love seat, but most of it is smaller $10-15 items.
Both Josiah and Samuel needed new clothes for the fall and winter. So I went through all of their clothes, sorted the ones they can’t wear and posted them online to sell. I also looked on these sites and found new clothes for the boys. I spend $61 and got all of the clothes that Josiah and Samuel need for the fall and winter. Honestly, Josiah has about 40 casual shirts and 10 pairs of casual jeans and about 10 church outfits. Samuel is about the same way. He has a 4-drawer dresser filled to the brim with clothes. Once I sell all the clothes the boys can’t wear, I’ll have about $100. So I got what the boys needed and have $40 leftover. That will probably go to school stuff.
For school stuff I mostly get free stuff online. I take the time to develop Josiah’s curriculum. I go to yard sales and thrift stores and second-hand bookstores and look for stuff that could help me out with class stuff. My mother and law found a Melissa & Doug chore chart ($20 at Toys R Us) for $1 at a yard sale last weekend. Thrift/yard sales are my addiction, but they pay off big when you don’t have a ton of money to spend.
Now that Josiah is into extra curricular activities we worked to figure out how to cover the costs of the activities without bankrupting us. For Josiah’s birthday instead of buying a bunch of toys he didn’t need, my Mom and step-dad (I hate using that term, I only use it for clarification because my step-mom and step-dad are great) are paying for soccer. The one soccer fee this fall will cover him to play in the fall and spring. Last Christmas they bought him a soccer goal and soccer ball to play at home. My Dad and step-mom are covering the fees for Josiah to do Trail Life USA (Baptist version of boy scouts). So instead of gifts, Josiah got a much better investment. The great thing is, Josiah will get to play soccer twice and play baseball and basketball and participate in Trail Life USA and we are only covering half of it. I’m very appreciative that my parents are willing to do this and it is a big help.
Can I afford to stay at home? I can’t afford not to stay at home. The financial and emotional/educational benefits of me staying at home are too great. Is every month without stress? No. Are all my bills paid on time every month? No. As a matter of fact, Jimmi was laid off one week out of each month from February to June. It’s been a big struggle, but he has a new job and is starting school in a few weeks to get a better job. It’s just one more step toward being more successful as a one-income household.
Society tells us that it is not only archaic for a woman to stay at home, but that it is basically financially impossible to stay at home. Don’t believe the lies ladies. We don’t need $350 car payments, $75 purses, $150 TV bills, or even big fancy cell phones (I refuse to give up my Galaxy Note, but I would if I had to). You can do it if you want to. All situations are different and you have to choose what will be best for your family, but the majority of the time a family can live on one income if they’re able to sacrifice a few of the things society has said is required to be “normal”. I’m not normal and I’m OK with it. I may struggle some months financially and I may spend time out of my day posting “for sale” items on Facebook, but the fact is the rest of my day is filled with my family.